More time = shorter letter

April 12, 2006 | By | 41 Replies More

“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”

Blaise Pascal, (1623-1662) Lettres provinciales.

Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.   

Henry David Thoreau

If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.

Marcus T. Cicero

You know that I write slowly. This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until I have said as much as possible in a few words, and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length.

Karl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855)

It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.


The more you say, the less people remember. The fewer the words, the greater the profit.


No one who has read official documents needs to be told how easy it is to conceal the essential truth under the apparently candid and all-disclosing phrases of a voluminous and particularizing report….

Woodrow Wilson

“If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today.  If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.”

Mark Twain


Category: Quotes

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Writing More, Writing Less | August 25, 2009
  2. Reasons not to write the first blog post | Philipp Hanes' Personal Blog | February 19, 2011
  1. federico says:


    Does anyone have an idea of who "Felelon" is? The only information that can be found on the internet appears to be his quote, so I guess it must be either misspelled or unknown. Any ideas?

  2. Edward Walters says:

    Felelon is really Fenelon (probably). Note also "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes" from Edward Everett who opened for Lincoln before his "Gettysburg Address."

  3. gaps96 says:

    Good perspectives. I strongly agree, nevertheless I think there are some (only some) things which need to be explained in detail. So many words, so many thinkings, so many things to say… it would be a waste leave all of them.

    Who's Felelon?

    Can be this one? Searching by the phrase… ¿François Fénelon?


  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Check out these related posts, Describing yourself in one word or less. See also, "Your biography in six words."

  5. Kevrichard says:

    While grade school teachers reward wordiness and long word counts with loads of filler for anyone going into the business world its all about getting right to the point and being brief. In comparison to writing everything you can think of on the page, in writing a targeted and brief piece of writing every word and sentence needs to be tweaked not only for word count but for meaning as well! Great quotes demonstrating this!

  6. Ploni Almoni says:

    "The only art is to omit."

    — Robert Louis Stevenson

  7. Dan Klarmann says:

    Richard: Reductio ad absurdum.

    I lunched with a fellow who showed me a self-published book by a guy with whom he agrees. Yet the book was steaming mounds of incoherent text that desperately needed to have had an editor. Or at least a spell checker!

    Useful technique: Read your prose aloud to someone who hasn't heard it before. Look for boredom or confusion. Let them interrupt.

  8. Alex Rowe says:

    Brevity is the soul of wit

    Intelligent speech and writing should aim at using few words. This proverb comes from the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.

  9. Erich Vieth says:

    From "The Power of Brevity: Adopt Abraham Lincoln's Habits," from The Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors (Fall, 2009):

    "The Gettysburg Address summarized the Civil War in ten sentences and 272 words. It took President Lincoln, a slow speaker, between two and three minutes to deliver the speech."

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    A specification that will not fit on one page of 8.5×11 inch paper cannot be understood.

    Mark Ardis

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